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What jobs tell us (KOR)

Apr 11,2019
In October 1929, the Great Depression devastated the U.S. financial markets. Share prices of listed companies on the New York Stock Exchange plunged to one-tenth their previous levels on average, followed by the shutting down of thousands of commercial banks due to bad loans. The jobless rate, which stood at 3 percent that year, soared to 25 percent in just three years. After President Franklin D. Roosevelt took over from President Herbert Hoover, the United States slowly recuperated from the near collapse of its economy over the next 10 years.

The abysmal job situation facing our young generation reminds us of the United States during those days. Statistics Korea’s March data testifies to the severity of the situation. The unemployment rate for people between the ages of 15 and 29 reached 10.8 percent, down 0.8 percent over the last year. At a first glance, that sounds like good news. On top of that, over 200,000 new jobs were created in the labor market for two consecutive months.

Yet if you take a closer look, an entirely different story surfaces. The real jobless rate among the young, including part-timers, has hit 25.1 percent, the highest since 2015. If they cannot find full-time jobs, that’s a serious problem. Recruitment officers in major companies are unanimously praising the quality of their applicants. Yet they can hardly find decent-paying jobs.

Our economy has not been battered as badly as during the Depression. Then why do our youngsters have to jump through such hoops to find jobs? The reason is simple: Korea no longer has companies that can promise a better future for them in the face of the fourth industrial revolution. Jobs in the manufacturing sector decreased for 12 consecutive months as our mainstay industries lost competitiveness. A total of 187,000 jobs disappeared last month in that sector if you include the service industry — except for social welfare — and financial and insurance industries, not to mention a reduction of a whopping 250,000 jobs among people in their 30s and 40s.

Nevertheless, Deputy Prime Minister for the Economy Hong Nam-ki praised the increase of 346,000 jobs among people in their 60s. But most of those jobs were created with tax money. For how long can the effect of the government’s spending on jobs last? The government must end its anti-business policy direction, kick-start restructuring and augment labor flexibility. The only way to prevent a disaster is to create an environment for the corporate sector to roll up its sleeves to create jobs. The government should know this.

JoongAng Ilbo, April 11, Page 30